The fashion industry has fundamentally changed since the birth of social media. In fact, the introduction of these monolithic marketing tools has altered our business doctrines altogether. Take Thessy and Yiota Kouzoukas for example: two Aussie mates who created a blog with the view to starting an online fashion label. Today the fashionable pair run global e-commerce juggernaut Sabo Skirt, a brand with 1.5 million Instagram followers ready to click and purchase whatever item they post next.
It is difficult to comprehend that merely a couple of years ago, the duo were operating what has become their empire out of an empty bathroom. Before the days of posts, snaps and tweets, this kind of instant success would have been unimaginable – let alone feasible. That is not to say anyone with a clever business idea and a smartphone can expect the same kind of imminent glory. Shaping a start-up company into a conglomerate within the current global market takes a certain technological fi nesse. Something that appears to come naturally to Thessy and Yiota.
Speaking to Sydney Observer the stylish twosome dished on their entrepreneurial success, e-business secrets and what it takes to make it big in the digital age.
How did the concept of Sabo Skirt start out?
Sabo Skirt began as a fashion blog in 2010. We started it as a creative outlet while we were studying at university. We both have always had a great love for fashion and wanted to share our style with others. We used to take photos of each other in our purchases and then post to the blog. We really had no idea that it would take off like it did. We quickly had a big online community of girls who loved our style and wanted to know what we were wearing and where they could get it. And so, the site was born.
At what stage did you realise you were onto something big?
We saw an opportunity pretty quickly. Seeing our fan base grow at the pace it did showed us that people were taking notice. Almost all of the comments we were receiving on our posts were those asking us where they could buy a particular item. We quickly saw an opportunity to be able to offer them an option buy what we were posting via an online store.
How important was social media in building your brand?
It’s been the backbone of the business since the beginning and remains our biggest driver today. It’s the link that has allowed us to be connected to our customers. We know exactly who our customer is and what she does or doesn’t like.
Our audience of over 1.6 million people is highly engaged and very loyal. We see direct sales from every single post we upload. Not only are we able to reach our customers nationwide but it’s what has turned Sabo Skirt into a globally recognised brand. Selling your products online allows people to purchase your products from anywhere in the world.
What’s the secret to your Instagram success?
Knowing our brand identity, and staying true to it. We are selective and mindful of what we upload and put a lot of thought into our posts, only using an image if it’s the perfect fit and reflection of our brand. A simple post can change your audience’s perception.
Did you have any business management experience before Sabo Skirt?
We both studied Business but majored in separate areas. Yiota majored in Marketing and Management and Thessy majored in Property. We both have business minds but we head up different parts of the business. Thessy is Creative Director, focusing on managing the design team and social media content, while Yiota is Managing Director with a focus on business strategies, procedures and marketing.
What’s the process between initial design to displaying product on your website?
Our creative process includes initial product design, sampling and refining and finally, styling and photographing. The entire process from initial design to appearing online for purchase takes around 3-4 months. This process has become longer over the past couple of years as we now dedicate more time on refining all aspects of the products.
How has your life changed since Sabo Skirt’s success?
In the first few years of business, we found it difficult to juggle work and life! There was no balance and we struggled to find time to do anything else and it resulted in both of us being a bit burnt out. It’s so important for professionals to have that balance to stay productive and healthy. Since then we’ve upgraded our work processes and have an amazing team of twelve staff to support us. We’ve also increased our physical activity and exercise which has helped us remain more productive while working.
What has been the biggest highlight since starting?
Aside from seeing Gigi Hadid wearing our Éclair shorts from our Sabo Luxe line, previewing our Sabo Luxe range at New York Fashion Week last September as part of the inaugural Fashion Palette show was a real pinch yourself moment. We’ve been invited to show again this year and couldn’t be more excited to do it all over again!
What’s the most valuable business lesson you’ve learnt through the company?
Over the past five years, we have definitely learnt that it is best to do business with like-minded individuals who believe in the same business ethics as we do.
What advice would you give to anyone starting out?
Research and planning is so important when you are building a business. Take the time to research the market and create your overall business plan. This will help you map out exactly what structure you want your business to take, what your goals are, and how you’re going to make it profitable.
Launching a business is the most exhilarating and fulfilling experience but there is also a lot of hard work that needs to go into it. Work hard and stay determined. You’ll get there!
What’s next for Sabo Skirt?
We have a big year ahead! We are working on some amazing new collections that will be released before the end of this year, including a new loungewear line. We will also release our very first wholesale collection.
And just to drop a hint, we are work on something really big (literally) that we plan to take around Australia and over to the US. That’s all we’ll say for now!